It may be tough for green designers to stay profitable while discouraging consumerism, but it’s not impossible. The key is this: When it comes to developing your business model, you have to be equally if not more creative than you are designing your collection or product. I have always said my biggest challenge with Uluru wasn’t figuring out how to design sustainably. Rather, it was managing cash flow.
Even within the framework of a conventional business model, the fashion industry poses challenges. Seasons overlap, so while you’re working on the upcoming season, you still have to pay your factories for the prior season’s production balances, not to mention collect money from your customers.
Even within the framework of a conventional business model, the fashion industry poses challenges.
If you don’t have a nice chunk of change in your bank to self-finance your development a year in advance, you have to depend on your clients’ payments, which don’t always arrive in time to pay for your production, if at all. This cash pickle has nothing to do with sustainable design and everything to do with the fashion calendar, credit availability, market interest rates, your relationship with your retailer, and your core clients’ financial health.
DESIGNING YOUR BUSINESS
The reality of a global economy makes sourcing “sustainable” materials and manufacturing a moral and financial gamble. It’s a practice that requires independent designers to bust out their own moral compasses, not only to make calculated and informed decisions, but also to provide consumers with transparent explanations for the many gray areas.
The reality of a global economy makes sourcing “sustainable” materials and manufacturing a moral and financial gamble.
Having said that, designers can design their own business models—models that work better for them, the needs of the stakeholders, and the development and production of their products or collections. This is where designers can really stand out, innovate, and get an edge. There are pioneers doing just that, including Alabama Chanin, Tom Ford, Bonobos, Dosa, and Patagonia. These are just a few examples.